Three men charged in people smuggling investigation
Three men have been charged with people smuggling offences after a fishing boat was intercepted off the coast of East Anglia in “a significant attempt to breach the UK’s border controls”.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the 30m fishing boat with 72 people on board was intercepted near Great Yarmouth on Tuesday evening and escorted into Harwich harbour in the early hours of Wednesday morning (November 18).
The three crew members, Igor Kosyi, 56, and Volodymyr Mykhailov, 48, both from Ukraine, and Aleksandrs Gulpe, 43, from Latvia, appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (November 19) charged with facilitating illegal immigration and have been remanded in custody.
The other 69 people on board, all Albanian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Immigration Act and are now being dealt with by Immigration Enforcement officers, said the NCA.
The arrests were part of joint operation involving the NCA, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force – including the Border Force cutters Searcher and Vigilant – with support from Essex Police.
The fishing boat had sailed from the Ostend area of Belgium and the NCA said a search of the vessel was still ongoing.
NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Craig Naylor said they had acted on intelligence received, adding: “This was clearly a significant incident and a significant attempt to breach the UK’s border controls.
“Our investigation into this attempt continues, and I’d like to thank our partners at Essex Police, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement for all they did last night and their ongoing work in support of our investigation going forward.
“Working with our partners we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks, and prevent them from exploiting migrants for profit.
“Our aim is to target those who cause harm, safeguard those who are most vulnerable while securing the UK’s borders.”